Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker "absolutely" denies that he encouraged Barclays Bank traders to manipulate key inter-bank lending rates, he told British lawmakers on Monday.
Tucker, drawn into a rate-rigging scandal that has claimed the jobs of three top Barclays directors and threatens to engulf other banks, also insisted he had not been pressed by ministers to encourage rigging of the Libor rate.
Last week, Barclays released a written account of a telephone conversation between its former chief executive Bob Diamond and Tucker in 2008, prompting a storm of questions over the Bank of England (BoE) central bank's involvement in the affair.
Diamond resigned last Tuesday over the scandal.
According to the memo written by Diamond, Tucker had suggested that Barclays' Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) submissions did not need to be as high as they had been.
Asked by parliament's Treasury Select Committee on Monday whether he denied telling Diamond that Barclays should manipulate the rates, the BoE deputy governor replied: "Absolutely."
"The conversation with Bob Diamond was not a conversation that I made a note of or my private secretary made a note of," Tucker told the cross-party panel.
"Sitting here, I greatly wish there were a note of it," said Tucker, who is widely regarded as a strong contender to succeed BoE Governor Mervyn King.
He added that Diamond's memo did "not completely" and accurately reflect the content of the conversation and that the part about Libor "gives the wrong impression".
Tucker had requested a hearing before the committee -- which grilled Diamond over the scandal last Wednesday -- in order to give his own version of events.
Barclays was fined £290 million ($452 million, 360 million euros) by British and US regulators for attempted rigging of Libor and Euribor interbank interest rates between 2005 and 2009.
Libor is a flagship reference rate used worldwide, affecting what banks, businesses and individuals pay to borrow money. Euribor is the eurozone equivalent.
Giving a lower Libor submission could suggest a bank was in a stronger financial position than it was, as it would signal that other banks were willing to lend to it for low interest rates.
Tucker told the committee that at the time of the phone call, at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, there were concerns that Barclays would follow Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group in seeking state assistance.
The BoE deputy governor called Diamond to discuss Barclays' high Libor submissions, amid fears these indicated that the bank was having problems acquiring funding, Tucker told lawmakers.
Ahead of Tucker's appearance on Monday, Barclays released a batch of emails between him and Diamond showing how Tucker was concerned about Barclays' financial health at the time of the attempted rigging.
Diamond told the same committee that he was concerned that British officials could have seen Barclays' high Libor rates as a reason to nationalise the bank.
Barclays had adequate funding at the time, unlike RBS which had to seek a massive bailout, Diamond said.
The American banker maintains that he did not interpret the phone call with Tucker as an order for Barclays traders to lie in their Libor and Euribor submissions.
But Diamond said that Jerry del Missier, who resigned as Barclays' chief operating officer last week over the scandal, interpreted Tucker's remarks as an instruction to rig the rates.
The Libor interest rate is calculated daily by the British Bankers' Association, an industry body which uses estimates from banks of their own interbank rates.
A similar process exists to establish the Euribor.
Tucker described the Libor setting process as "a cesspit" and called for an end to the practice of self-certification, whereby banks submit figures based on their own judgments rather than actual transactions.
Marcus Agius, who resigned as Barclays chairman over the affair, is due to give evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday.
Britain's Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation into scandal, while a European Commission probe will reach its conclusions in the next few weeks, a European commissioner said Monday.